Class of 1982 hanging basket

We are here to remember our friends who have passed. Marijo Dutcher, Becky Ranstead, Gary Syers, John Whiting, and Joey Wyant. We are here for our friends who graduated in other schools and have passed. And we are here to remember our loved ones who have passed, especially Darwin Allen and Kathy Garza.

We say that they have passed not because it is a euphemism but because it is true. We love them and we know that we will see them again. We are here to remember them, but their immortality does not depend on memories. It does not depend on being remembered for their achievements, though they have achieved much among those who love them, nor does it depend on history books or a street with their name.

What form eternal life must take we do not know, but we know it is real.

I recently read a book by the philosopher Martin Gardner*, and in it he tells a story about an atheist, a scientist, who was dying. His wife was beside him at his deathbed and they were arguing about immortality.

“I know we will meet again, somewhere, sometime,” Rosalie whispered.

The physicist snorted. It was a weak snort because he was sinking fast. “Balderdash! If you understood science you would know that.”

Rosalie knew nothing about science. “But surely you must hope we will meet again?”

The physicist shook his head slowly. “One life is enough. It ends things simply and elegantly. The universe would be too messy otherwise.”

He died.

A few million earth-years whirled into the past; then suddenly the physicist found himself standing in the presence of God. He was overcome with confusion. “I cannot understand! How by all the laws of science could I exist again?”

“How by all the laws of science,” God replied, “could there be laws of science?”

“But,” said the physicist, “I did not even want to live again. Why am I here?”

“You are here,” sighed God, “for one reason only. Rosalie requested it.”

We love them. And God loves us.

Because God is all things, when colleagues in a trade gather they often speak of those who have died as having been called home by the Great Captain, if they are sailors, by the Great Architect, if they are carpenters, and so on. We are not joined by an occupation; we are joined as friends and as family. Our classmates have been called Home by our Great Friend and Father. Where we meet again, what heaven is, we cannot know. But we will meet again, and it will be a home filled with friends.

We pray now for our friends.

Lord, forty years ago we graduated from this high school together, and journeyed into your world in joyful hope. We thank you for our continued fellowship, for our common hope, and for the promise of a joyful future.

In a few hours, or a few days, we will journey back to our separate homes. Lord, we pray you to protect us and our classmates from all the dangers of travel, and bring us safely to the end of our journeys.

We pray today for those who have journeyed before us into your grace. We ask your blessing for all our classmates who have departed this life, for our parents and spouses and all our loved ones who have traveled before us to be with you.

We beseech you graciously to behold and bless those whom we love now absent from us. Grant them safe lodging, and a holy rest, and peace at last. Defend them from all dangers of the soul, and grant that they and we, drawing nearer to you, may be bound together by your love. Grant that with patience we may run the race still set before us, and at the end with them ever worship and adore your glorious name, in unbroken peace and eternal life.

Amen.


*The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener, 1983/1999.